Just over a year on from release, Final Fantasy 7 Remake for PlayStation 4 gets one of the most satisfying PS5 updates yet with its Intergrade upgrade, entirely free to existing owners (bar the PS+ version). All you need is your original PS4 copy - or digital licence - running on PS5 hardware to qualify for a frankly beautiful suite of extras and enhancements. As a huge fan of the Remake on PS4, Intergrade ticks pretty much every box for what I wanted: loading times are drastically improved, textures are reworked in key spots, effects are added, and there's also an optional 60fps performance mode to go alongside its 4K30 graphics option.
And there's more: while Intergrade is a free update for buyers of the PS4 version, there is also a new "Intermission" DLC expansion that can be bought on the side. Or, you can just get the PS5 version outright and it's included there. Intermission has you take charge of ninja side-character Yuffie in her adventures across Midgar, shuriken in hand, with a move set that feels distinct from Cloud's. Accessed via a new front end menu, essentially you get two new chapters for the game. It's true standalone adventure, it's beautifully presented, and all round easy to recommend for fans of the main game. The only drawback is that it's a PS5 exclusive for at least six months - so whether we'll see it on PS4, PC or even Xbox at some point remains to be seen.
But to get to the point, Intergrade offers both a 30fps quality and 60fps performance mode and the good news is that frame-rate and resolution aside, there's nothing to otherwise split them in visual features. If you're happy with 30fps, the quality mode manages to render a native 3840x2160 for the majority of the time too - the typical resolution, if you like. I say typical because fleeting stress points can see a drop to 1872p minimum - still a substantial improvement over PS4 Pro's 2880x1620 maximum. The clarity offered by PS5 is excellent, the presentation looking beautiful on a 4K screen. By contrast, PS5's performance mode tends to settle in the 2688x1512 region, though I did spot an 1152p minimum in a rare instance.
It's a straight trade of resolution for frames: image clarity is lessened in the performance mode, but all other settings for textures, lighting, fog and more are identical, so you lose nothing else. PS5's frame-rate is absolutely solid regardless of mode too, whether it's 30fps or 60fps. There's barely a dropped frame whichever option you're using. Consistency is king, and the flawless performance of Intergrade's modes is the cherry on top - the final flourish on a beautiful game that now looks even better on PlayStation. That's the key takeaway here for me: this isn't just an image quality and performance upgrade: Intergrade is clearly a richer visual experience.
Perhaps the biggest upgrade of them all is in texture quality. Yes, Remake has some beautifully detailed environments but there are some glaring issues on PS4, particularly around the Sector 7 Slums. There are two distinct issues here. Firstly, running through the slums at any speed triggered pop-in issues on PS4 systems. It's a dense sprawl of scrap metal houses with tight alleyways, where textures underfoot often appear a blurry mess as Cloud passes by. Likewise, NPCs pop in across the distance, and even shop signs render in a low quality state for several seconds. Simply put, PS4 and Pro on their stock drives just can't stream in texture data fast enough. Perhaps unsurprisingly, PS5 solves all of these issues and delivers higher quality textures into the bargain in many scenarios - and yes, we can confirm that 'the door' is indeed fixed.
The extent of the texture upgrades doesn't end there. The floor texturing of the slums gets a vast overhaul on PS5, as do countless spots across the game. From materials on character armour to smaller points in the scenery, any asset that appeared low quality before takes advantage of PS5's higher memory allocation. Clearly these are all assets banked by Square Enix for more powerful hardware. This is the Final Fantasy 7 Remake we were meant to see, unbounded by the limited CPU and RAM of last-gen consoles to give us the full, clear picture - with little pop-in. We even get an upgraded skybox: the looming central pillar holding Midgar plates is swapped out for a new asset, all of which holds up to scrutiny better as we run the outskirts.
Next up, there's the newly-added volumetric fog and lighting. These often go hand-in-hand, but the volumetrics stand out most starkly. Square Enix uses PS5's near 2.5x boost in GPU power over PS4 Pro to push for thicker layers of fog across multiple areas in the game. And of course, lighting is tweaked across the scene too, with added bloom effects and even shadow quality boosted across the game to deliver clearer outlines. Even screen-space reflections have been improved over PS4 Pro's presentation. It all combines to deliver a sometimes radically different scene. In others, it's subtly enhanced. All round, PS5 moves the visuals of Final Fantasy 7 Remake forward, from the huge changes to the big cities to small touches, like the extra thin layer of mist added to the gardens outside Aerith's house.
The Intergrade release on PS5 delivers big then, at least, depending on where you look. Combined with Remake's already beautiful materials and lighting, there's a near CG movie-like quality to some spots in the game. As a way to celebrate this in a way, Intergrade gives us access to an all-new photo mode to frame moments with new filters, angles, and exposure levels. I had fun with this: a tool to create beautiful, 4K pristine shots of the wall market or Aerith's church - ideally used with the graphics mode. A neat extra. Photo mode's a great addition for anyone who just wants to go sightseeing around Midgar on a second run. But for those experiencing this for the first time, the question remains: which of PS5's two visual modes is best to enjoy the game? It's a difficult one as the clarity on offer at 4K30 looks sensational, but the 1512p performance mode at 60fps transforms the way the game plays. After spending 40 hours on the PS4 Pro, PS5 at 60fps definitely refreshes the experience. Having such fast, frenetic battles play out at double the frame-rate is one of the most transformative additions on PS5 edition.
A final major area to touch on then is the loading times. With fast travel via Chocobo being a factor in enjoying the endgame, a loading time reduction on PS5 was pretty high on the wish-list - and it delivers in spades. First up, in simply booting the game from the console front-end, PS5 completes the task in six seconds up against 28 seconds on Pro. Better still, continuing a game is much faster too. Loading up a save to the Sector 7 Slums takes the PS5 just over one second. We're well into the action on PS5 by the time PS4 Pro gets to the same point, after 31 seconds. It's a great quality of life improvement, and one of the surer signs of a faster solid-state solution being factored into a PS5 release to reduce loading screens.
All round there's a lot to love in Final Fantasy 7 Remake Intergrade. A year on from the PS4 release, Square Enix clearly had a mission to fix, upgrade, and enhance the original project in every way it could - and in almost every case it pays off handsomely. Frame-rates across both its 4K mode, and the 60fps mode are faultless. The improved textures, lighting and volumetric effects also give a satisfying update over the PS4 original, while loading times are substantially improved. The photo mode is an inspired extra, while you even get PS5 features like adaptive triggers used for the motorbike racing missions. All this combined, and especially with the new Intermission DLC, there's enough here to justify a replay. Put simply, this upgrade is an absolute success - one of my favourite games of the last generation has transitioned beautifully to PlayStation 5 and I highly recommend it to FF7R players old and new.